NC National Guard Adjusts To Changing Times, Plans Two New Centers
Shifting populations and changing demographics. Those are the key drivers behind the initiative known as the Readiness Center Transformation Master Plan.
Nationwide, there are around 2,600 National Guard armories, many of them outdated. In North Carolina, there are around 90.
"We got a lot of them that were built in the 50s. I think 1954 is the oldest facility we've got active and we've got a lot of late 50s and a lot of 60s," said Lt. Col. Rodney Newton, with Joint Force Headquarters, North Carolina National Guard.
Thanks to $70 million from the 2016 Connect NC Bond, the North Carolina National Guard is moving ahead with design and construction on two new regional readiness centers. Construction on the first, planned for Morganton, is slated to begin late next year. Design on the second regional center, in McLeansville, should get underway next summer with construction starting around nine months later.
The vast regional readiness centers will accommodate up to five units, or 600 soldiers, whereas the older armories only serve one unit. And the new facilities will be more accessible to today's Guard members than the armories, which were built in communities where many soldiers could walk to drill.
"We live up and down the interstates, you know, up and I-40, from Raleigh towards Greensboro down towards Charlotte with 85 and then up and down, say, 77," said Lieutenant Col. Newton.
Newton pointed out, too, that in replacing armories built an average of 45 years ago, the Guard's new readiness centers need to adjust to more than just a shifting population.
"We didn't have very many females in the military back then, they didn't really influx until the late 70s, so you lack female restrooms. You know, then you don't have the IT infrastructure," he said.
Newton said the North Carolina Guard was able to move forward with its regional readiness centers because of the bond money whereas many other states are stuck still looking for funds.